Let’s talk about the IELTS Speaking Exam. More precisely, it’s time we focus on those common IELTS speaking mistakes.

This article addresses each section of the Speaking test and shares the most common IELTS speaking mistakes test-takers “trip up” on during every part.

Don’t worry about the examiner’s view

Most of the students have this misconception that they can only do well in the speaking test if the examiner agrees with their opinion. Nothing could be further from the truth. Examiners are not concerned with your opinion; they want to demonstrate your speaking ability. Focus on giving a fluent answer that responds to the question and is grammatically accurate.

Don’t insert ‘big’ words

A common delusion is that you must have very long, ‘complicated’ words in every sentence to get a high score on the speaking test. If you listen to how innate speakers talk, this doesn’t happen, unless you are at a conference of professors. You must try to show that you have a wide-ranging vocabulary, but you should not try to use words you don’t fully understand. If you try to use ‘complicated’ words you don’t fully understand, it is very likely that you will make errors and lose marks.

Don’t memorize answers

People think that the best way to do well in the speaking test is to remember scripted answers and use these in the test. This is a bad idea because memorized answers are obvious and examiners are trained to spot them. You will not only lose marks, the examiners may also ask you more challenging questions to test your English and establish your real level.

Don’t show off your grammar

Many students feel that to impress the examiner they must show how amazing or how fluent they are with their vocabulary to get high marks. Again, the risk here is trying to use grammar you are not 100-per-cent sure about and then losing control of the sentence. There are no obvious reasons for using the future perfect continuous tense if it is not applicable to do so. Think about the tense you require to use when practicing, and familiarise yourself with the functional language for giving opinions, contrasting views, and so on.

Don’t prioritize grammar over fluency

In the exam, you get separate marks for grammatical precision and fluency. Most students worry more about their grammar than their fluency, and the latter skill suffers as a result. It is generally the opposite way around. Ask a teacher or native speaker to give you advice about your grammar or fluency requirements. You can then focus on improving one or the other.

Don’t say Anything

This seems like an obvious piece of guidance but you would be surprised by how many students choose to say nothing rather than attempt to give an answer. It is better to attempt an answer than simply say nothing. Many students feel this way, possibly because their old teacher told them to say nothing or criticised them if they didn’t know the answer. In the IELTS speaking test, you are not anticipated to give a faultless response to a question or to be an expert in many different areas. The main thing is to show your speaking ability. If you don’t know the answer, it is acceptable to say something like ‘I don’t have much knowledge of this subject, but I think…’ or ‘I’m not sure, but if I had to say….’, and attempt an answer.

No need to worry about your accent

Many students are overly concerned with sounding more ‘British’ or more ‘American’, whatever this means. In fact, the accent is not important in the speaking test as long as it does not obstruct your ability to communicate.

Don’t get too nervous

Getting nervous is a natural reaction, but nerves can bring someone’s score down in a few different ways. Some people have a tendency to speak at a very low volume when they are nervous and this will diminish the examiner’s ability to understand you. Others mumble when they are nervous and this is a bad idea in a speaking test. The key is to prepare appropriately and then you will feel more confident.

Don’t rely on the examiner

Some of the candidates think that the speaking examiner will prompt you if you are talking too much or too little, or not speaking loudly enough, or if you are not sticking to the query asked. The fact is that the examiner has nothing to do with this, he or she will let you make mistakes, so you have to take control of your own speaking and don’t look to the examiner for any clue or help.

Don’t be late

Make sure you give yourself time to get to the examination Center and find out where your speaking test will be. By getting there early you will be able to get relaxed in your surroundings and concentrate exclusively on the exam. Don’t be afraid to ask the staff any questions you might have; they are there to assist.

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